The future of mobility is electric and battery swapping will pave the way forward

Uber also plans to bring in battery-swapping autorickshaws in several cities in the coming months.

Akhil Aryan August 29, 2019 19:41:18 IST
The future of mobility is electric and battery swapping will pave the way forward

The reduction in GST rate for electric vehicles (EVs) and a push for better-charging infrastructure has attracted leading industry players to explore ways to enter this business.

The future of mobility is electric and battery swapping will pave the way forward

Representational image.

Recent developments that emphasised the transition of two and three-wheelers to all-electric have captured the interest of companies in the battery swapping technology space. The push for this sustainable ecosystem is gaining new momentum and enabling us to reimagine electrified transportation.

The concept of battery swapping essentially enables reduced wait time for charging and significantly lower up-front cost for two and three-wheelers (since they would be sold without the battery).

Examples of first movers in this space include Sun Mobility and Kymco’s battery swapping stations that push for wider EV adoption as both plan to provide smartphone apps that help locate the closest swapping unit. Ride-hailing service Uber announced its intent to bring in battery-swapping autorickshaws in several cities in the coming months. Ola Electric has announced plans to put one million EVs on Indian roads by 2022 and to set up an ecosystem involving battery swapping stations.

But, the business of battery swapping heavily relies on being able to predict, manage and extend battery life.

In the business of swapping, the life of the battery will determine the commercial viability and success of the model. The longer battery swapping companies can maintain a battery’s performance, the better the ROI on every asset. Today, most companies are making assumptions on the expected life of the battery, but very little is known of the on-road battery life and performance.

Electric vehicles are expensive primarily because of the lithium-ion batteries that power them. The cost of a battery amounts to 40 percent of the total vehicle cost. While the upside of using lithium-ion batteries is their high energy density, relatively low self-discharge, and low maintenance. On the other hand, they have a limited life. On average, the estimated life of a lithium-ion battery is up to three years or 500-700 charge cycles, after which, they need to be replaced.

It is important to note that a battery is continuously wearing out, even when not being actively used. It is harmful to let a battery sit idle at a 100 percent charge state.

The energy that has been stored gradually escapes, this is referred to as 'self-discharging'. And if a battery remains completely discharged for a long period of time, there could be irreparable damage caused by chemical reactions inside the battery, negatively impacting the battery life.

In the long run, it is imperative to consider, assess and critically analyse all the factors that affect Battery Life:

Excessive Charging or Discharging: To extend the battery life, it is important to operate at about 30–80 percent and prevent ultra-fast charging and full cycles.

High Temperatures: Avoid high temperatures and limit deep cycling, lower voltage limit preferred.

Unused batteries: Batteries must not be left unused for an extended period of time in an electric vehicle or in storage. Keep tab of the battery’s charge status.

Replace battery: Under two conditions, when the run time drops below 80 percent of the original run time and the battery charge time increases significantly.

By leveraging battery usage data, companies can find the keys to unlocking better battery life. Optimum use of the battery could help reduce overall ownership cost and bring financial and operational efficiency to the swapping business model.

Akhil Aryan is the CEO and Co-Founder of ION Energy

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